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Author: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Dave McKean

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Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers,

Material: hard cover

Summary: The kids are divided. Older brother has the fantastically brilliant idea of trading his father for two goldfish; his little sister disagrees. Once the deal is struck - and discovered by mom! - the two siblings start a journey from friend to friend, house to house, trading along the way all the wonderful things that one would trade for a "Dad." Through the eyes of a child, the logic of the trades can not be denied, and in the end we find the father a fair trade for [sorry, we won't tell you.] This is humorous look at sibling rivalry, consequences, and value.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 8 to 12

Interest Level: 3 to 8

Reading Level: 2.8

Age of Child: Read with a 5-year-old girl who has an older brother.

Young Reader Reaction: The kids giggle all the way through this book, which took a while to read because the mixed media images were so much fun to look at. My daughter especially liked the role of the little sister, who turns out to be the wise one. She had many comments after the story in vigorous protest to trading a dad for two goldfish… "I would never do that!.." and many small comments while we were reading meant to hint at her utter support of the little sisters role in the story.

Adult Reader Reaction: I loved this book. I was as immersed in the incredible idea of being able to trade an adult authority figure away if I wished so - as was my five year old co-reader. Then, as the story progressed, I was happily reminded of the interactions and bantering that goes on between younger sister and older brother (having been the younger sister myself…). Some of the best humor is in the illustrations, and these should not be overlooked lest you miss the joke!

Pros: The story is a witty and funny look at two siblings who aren’t necessarily getting along, but nevertheless share a journey to bring their father home. Uncommonly, the two siblings remain unnamed in the book - allowing children reading/hearing the story to more easily identify with the characters.

Cons: Interestingly, the one possible con would be that I almost passed this book up when I flipped through the pages and saw the dark (in color only) graphic novel styling. That having been said, this style works wonderfully with the story, and having read it I can’t see it being done in any another way.

Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a wonderful book to get for any parent or guardian who shares their world with multiple kids; and I would buy it for a family member even more so - especially my older brother! Read this to all brothers and sisters (especially if the sister is the younger of the two!) This story so well depicts the communication, feelings, and actions of young children with siblings that it is ideal reading for any child who has brothers and sisters. The humor is such that adults will have a good laugh, too, remembering their own childhood.


Educational Themes: While it is a wonderful escape from reality imagining you could trade your Dad (or any authority figure) for two small goldfish, the bigger lesson was that sibling is pretty normal and it’s OK to feel it sometimes. The last time I myself was reminded so happily about this eternal cycle was reading Shel Siverstein (" … one crying and spying young sister for sale … ").

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, animal characters, family, humor

Date(s) Reviewed: April 2008

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